It's time for New Year's resolutions and new projects. I'm very excited about my work in progress. In my next romance a naive, young woman inherits her aunt's sex toy store and falls for the beautiful, wordly tattooist who works next door. I modeled the store after She Bop in Portland, but my adventure didn't end there.
It was Friday night during campaign season. My wife had gone to a political banquet. I'd been waiting for her downtown. I often teased her about the fact that campaign events always took longer than predicted. When she said she'd be out of the banquet in fifteen minutes, I knew she meant sixty, so I strolled down the Park Blocks under majestic oaks until I reached Burnside.
When I was a kid, Burnside was an industrial district except for a few gritty stores like Spartacus Leathers. I was feeling nostalgic for old Portland, so I popped into Spartacus where I picked up a book called Becoming Cliterate: The Pleasure Gap and Why It Matters.
I thought I knew all about woman-to-woman sex. Surprise! There was more to learn.
Becoming Cliterate isn't really written for lesbians, although the author, psychology professor and human sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz, does note that women who have sex with other women have more orgasms. Why's that? It's society's obsession with penetration. Mintz's research shows that penetration without clitoral stimulation leads to orgasm in only 4% of the female population. (To be fair, other books say the statistic about penetration isn't quite so dramatic, but they still agree that only a small minority of women can orgasm with penetration alone.) Nonetheless, for most of society, penetration equals sex. Penetration is sex. Meanwhile, the acts that actually get women off are considered non-essential "foreplay."
That's a big, ol' truck-load of sexism, Mintz argues. (That's not exactly how she puts it, but she'd agree with the description.)
I started to look at all the sex scenes, in romance novels and on screen, where the woman orgasms extravagantly from penetration alone. He hops on top of her, she screams like a porn star, and then it's done. I started counting hands. If the couple isn't using any sort of sex toy and we get a clear visual on all four hands (i.e. she's receiving no extra stimulation) there's a 96% chance she's faking it. What a bummer!
Mintz urges her readers to follow the "Twelve Commandments for Orgasm Equality and Quality Sex," including the promise, "I will educate others about female anatomy and pleasure."
I'm in! I've always prided myself on writing sex scenes that were hot and real. But reading Becoming Cliterate gave me a new sense of purpose. People aren't taught the anatomy of female pleasure. Women feel like they've failed because they can't have a "vaginal" orgasm (not really a thing) and men feel like they've failed because they can't please their lovers in the one way they've been taught to. Who better to educate them than a romance writer? Who better to diffuse the penetration-obsession than a lesbian? The sex-toy store setting of the new novel is the perfect place to continue this education and the sexually inexperienced protagonist is the perfect student. If just one woman put down the book and went on to have a more fulfilling sex life, I'd consider the work success! My New Year's resolution? Help my readers have better sex.